Posts Tagged ‘negativity’

How to lose an author

I am prompted to write this in response to How to avoid getting an agent by a literary agent in America, Rachelle Gardner.  I don’t know of Rachelle or her reputation but her provocative posting has lured me into writing something which matters to me.

It’s a buyer’s market. We constantly hear stories about the thousands of writers vying to have our books published. The numbers are against us. Even if our novel has the literary quality, zeitgeist topicality and marketing potential to be the ‘next big thing’ it still has to rise to the top of the slush pile at precisely the right moment.

The hands that resignedly take it from the pile have to belong to a person who is in the frame of mind to recognise that this one, unlike the fifty that preceded it and the hundreds that follow, is the one. What if the person had a row with their partner that morning? Or their dog was sick the day before? It doesn’t matter to the editor or agent if they miss this one – another will come along. But it does matter to the individual who invested hundreds of hours in the manuscript that is passed over.

We know we are in a lottery. It’s the way the game is set up and it’s the way we play it. But does it mean we have to like it? We buy the ticket knowing our chances are minimal. Surely, this gives us the right to console ourselves with a mini-bitch when our number doesn’t come up. It isn’t ingrained negativity, it’s a normal human reaction to disappointment (aka rejection).

So I say this to agents who may be tempted to lecture wannabe published authors about the destructive impact on our careers of perceived negativity: please remember that we are individuals too. We may look like an amorphous mass of seething hope and our desperation may make us whiff a bit, but actually you depend on us. The only thing we are guilty of is showing a normal reaction to having our hopes crushed – again.

Maybe agents who lecture us wannabe writers about our failings are guilty of something worse – demonstrating insufficient empathy with our plight to be the sort of agents we would want to work with.

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01 2011